I was recently asked “what does the 2011 outlook look like for Pittsburgh?” Well, before I dazzle you with my forecasting abilities, I need to reflect a bit on how Pittsburgh fared in 2010. After all, you have to know where you’ve been to see where you’re going, right?
Pittsburgh fortunately managed to avoid the worst of the recession, with only limited exposure to the housing bust. Thanks to a diversified economy, the unemployment rate here was well below the national average. And, on the hotel front, the number of hotel rooms in the Pittsburgh market actually increased by 4 percent in 2010. Typically, an excess supply can have a negative impact on occupancy growth. In Pittsburgh, however, the demand for rooms has outpaced the supply growth; and this, in turn, helped to maintain growth in occupancy, I’m happy to say.
Looking ahead, we expect moderate growth in all key indicators (RevPar, Occupancy and ADR). VisitPittsburgh’s new mantra for 2011, is perhaps one that is echoed elsewhere, is “Cautiously optimistic.”
On the downside, VisitPittsburgh has experienced a dramatic downswing in funding – just like many other CVBs. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of doing more with less! To that end, we will continue to take a hard look at our expenses, and are dropping programs and projects that we feel we can live without. We are also working harder than ever to nurture those core activities that provide us with the best ROI. And, this brings us to familiarization tours.
Historical misperceptions about Pittsburgh remain a challenge for us. To address this, we will concentrate a large portion of our 2011 budget on getting customers here so that they can see for themselves what great Pittsburgh really is. We have found that 82 percent of the customers that come and experience our destination will ultimately bring their meeting to Pittsburgh in the future.
Going forward, we will continue to rely on public relations as a means of promoting our destination and we have ramped up our social media efforts considerably. For this, we identified staff members with specific skill sets who can utilize social media outlets without any additional expense. For instance, we have several staff members who have a flair for being on camera, along with a few talented videographers and editors. They have created a new YouTube video series called “VisitPittsburgh’s Two Minute Tours.” These video tours are inexpensive to produce and showcase our destination and attractions to a wide audience. VisitPittsburgh has also embraced the use of DMAI’s tool, empowerMINT, as a low-cost tool to reach prospective customers.
So, yes, we will continue to do more with less in 2011, but we remain cautiously optimistic, too!